The Myth of the Predator

Evolution may not directly select for self-destruction, it does however select for traits that eventually lead to it: greed, intelligence, technological innovation, are the traits that help super predators achieve their meteoric rise to the top – as well as their own self-destruction

On Earth, every ecosystem always takes steps to curb species that either over-proliferate or over-consume.  The more the population of a species gets out of hand, the closer its demise approaches.  At around the time when the population has reached an unsustainable, precarious number, a mysterious new predator will always appear, almost out of nowhere.  The engorged population suddenly becomes a vast food source for the new predator, who inflicts a heavy cull on the species and recycles its molecules back into the food chain for others to use.  The cycle begins again, with more super predators arising, each of them eventually meeting their match: whether it is a virus, a parasite, or an updated version of their own species.

There is no exception to this rule.  All predators die when there is no one left to eat, just like all bullies are powerless when there is no one left to dominate.  Earth may be a shared resource, but those with long arms who continuously eat more than their fair share are always brought to justice and pay a hefty population price.   Even a species barely visible to the naked eye, without even a cell membrane, can defeat the most advanced civilization.  The most lethal, targeted, and devastating biological weapons are not produced by humans. They are under the possession of Earth, and she will use them whenever and however she sees fit. 

There is never really a predator or prey.  These are just labels.  A predator can become prey and vice versa, but both eventually surrender their molecules into a common molecular pool, one circular food chain, one chemical reservoir where they all originated, and where they will all one day return.

When species go extinct, they completely surrender their molecules to this pool.  If humans go extinct however, they will leave behind plastic trash and radioactivity.  Even if we were to go extinct tomorrow, plants would still grow deformed in abandoned nuclear sites.  Fish and birds would still be choking on ingested plastic, tens of thousands of years into the future.  There is a distinct possibility that, even if we were to disappear today, we could still be making species extinct, well into the future.

The more successful a predator, the more likely for it to go extinct by its own hand.  Self-destruction usually lurks like a chronic disease: fully detectable, yet benign enough to continue its slow advance without raising the alarm.  Like lung cancer, its power lies not in its intensity, but in its longevity.  Self-destruction follows a lazy, incremental progression, gradually building its crescendo under the cover of night.  It advances slow enough to fool its victim into believing that there is plenty of time to act, yet never rests: the direction of travel has always been the same: consistent, and irreversible.  By the time “urgent” action is needed, it is already too late.  

At this point the victim may start to contemplate.  As they approach death, some of the unsuspecting victims may realize that they had trapped themselves in their own space-time deception bubble: at any given moment they may feel like they are walking, but in fact, they had been walking and falling at the same time.  It is no wonder that their sense of perspective is warped: they were always the victim and the perpetrator at the same time. 

Self-destruction is the most difficult destruction to stop, exactly because it is not perpetrated by an outside enemy.  It is perpetrated by the self.  It is an autoimmune disease.  It therefore requires an unusually strong person to stand up to…themselves, just like a drug addict whose power to determine their own fate has been irreparably damaged. They lack the strength to even look in the mirror and see who they could have been if only they had the strength to try.  And so, in most cases self-destruction continues its dirty work unabated, even as the warning signs become starker, louder, impossible to ignore. 

Unable to accept that they have lost control, many victims desperate to save face will deny any responsibility, embracing their own self-destruction as inevitable.  This denial brings about a huge emotional relief.  “None of this could ever have been avoided, so let’s all relax anyway and enjoy our last days.”

Defeatism and denial complement each other like a pair of tango dancers, alternating from one side of the dancefloor to the other, depending which way the wind blows.  Defeatism allows those who’ve had enough of lying to themselves to suddenly pretend that they are “seeing” the reality.  Denial comes in handy when they’ve had enough of too much defeatism.  They go back to their “happy place”, before changing their minds again to defeatism.  They will alternate between denial and defeatism perpetually.  Actual, real reality is never part of their realm.

Some will claim that they chose this fate, that perhaps at some point they could have easily turned the corner, but they just didn’t want to.  They have successfully convinced themselves that they are perfectly “in control” of their addiction, an obvious yet all-too-common oxymoron.  In fact, what they’ve done is surrender to the scenario that requires the least amount of effort on their part: death.  It is interesting to listen to some addicts who claim that they consciously chose to die, because it was going to happen anyway.  It is a strange logic.

But what about the fossil fuel addicts?  Are they any different?  Did they consciously choose to destroy Earth and its 8 million species, including their own, because they couldn’t be bothered to assume the responsibilities they had towards Nature? 

The consciously unconscious path to self-destruction brings about a liberating, yet lethal euphoria that makes them feel like they are actually in control: “Living like there is no tomorrow” begins as a philosophical outlook on life, before eventually becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

It’s not that there were never any warning signs along the way.  Sure, there were plenty.  But they were more like flashing orange traffic lights, which one can always speed through.  Humanity has always chosen which traffic lights to obey and which to ignore, at will.  If an accident happens and we can’t find fault (or do not want to attribute fault to any of the motorists), we are brilliant at inventing myths and stories about “how it all happened.”  If these stories are not convincing enough, we then resort to defeatism:  it was the road design, or the weather.  Or just a ”one in a million years event”.

Humanity’s highly addictive and greedy nature makes it a prime victim of self-destructive behavior.  One can argue, (from a defeatist perspective perhaps), that self-destruction is our natural fate, and the only long-term option that was ever on the table for human civilization.  If humans were to go back in time, they would have probably done everything the same.  Why fix the world when it is much more profitable to smoke it?  Why turn down the music when it is more fun to have a loud, raucous party?  Humans will do what they have always done, which is to care only about their immediate gratification and ignore all other species, including their own children. In fact, like true addicts, humans do not even care about their own health. 

An addict is also much more likely to slip into crime in order to service their addiction, and this is why ethics and ethical dilemmas become important to humans only when convenient: when they serve a specific economic, political or other benefit that caters to one of our many self-destructive addictions.  There is no fundamental difference between “true sleep” and willful ignorance. Those who are “asleep” have actually made a conscious choice, and the end result of both sleep and conscious denial is always exactly the same anyway: a rude awakening into one’s own nightmare.

George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books

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